Rising patient numbers pile pressure on falling GP workforce

The number of patients registered with GP practices in England rose by more than 720,000 over the past year, while the number of fully-qualified GPs has dropped.

Registered patients rising (Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)
Registered patients rising (Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)

A total of 59,901,236 patients were registered with GP practices in England on 1 July - up 723,073 compared with the same time in 2018, official data published by NHS Digital show.

But the most recent GP workforce data show that over the year to March 2019, the number of fully-qualified, full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs fell by 441. On 1 March this year there were 28,697 fully-qualified FTE GPs - down 2% from 29,138 a year earlier.

The rise in patient numbers over the past year has come alongside a sharp decline in practice numbers, creating a 5% rise in the average practice list size.

Practice list size

In July 2018 there were 7,148 GP practices in England with an average patient list of 8,279 - but by July this year the number of practices had dropped by 244 to 6,904. The average patient list at GP practices in England has now reached 8,676 - up 47% from the time when the new GMS contract replaced the old Red Book contract in 2004.

The latest figures on patients registered with GP practices emerged as findings from the GP patient survey showed a one percentage-point drop in overall satisfaction with GP services. Despite this, 83% of patients are satisfied with their NHS GP service overall - and 95% have trust and confidence in the last GP they saw.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'Practices are now caring for 720,000 more patients than they were this time last year, while according to the most recent figures the number of full-time equivalent GPs has fallen by more than 400.'

He said that high levels of patient satisfaction were 'a testament to how hard GPs and their teams are working in practices up and down the country'.

Patient survey

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said this week that the positive patient survey results had only been possible because of 'the incredible efforts of GPs and their teams', working under 'intense resource pressures'.

She added: 'GPs are seeing more than 1m patients a day across the UK, but this increase in patient demand is not being met with adequate levels of resourcing and staffing, leaving patients waiting longer for appointments and some GPs burnt out, which ultimately puts patient safety under threat.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

NHS England to redesign GP appraisal in light of COVID-19 pandemic

NHS England to redesign GP appraisal in light of COVID-19 pandemic

GP appraisals are being redesigned to have a greater focus on wellbeing and reduced...

Primary care to lose millions in funding unless PCNs hit recruitment targets in pandemic

Primary care to lose millions in funding unless PCNs hit recruitment targets in pandemic

Hundreds of millions of pounds could be lost to primary care if primary care networks...

Practices told to prepare for 'major expansion' of flu vaccination as QOF pared back for 2020/21

Practices told to prepare for 'major expansion' of flu vaccination as QOF pared back for 2020/21

GP practices have been told to 'gear up for a major expansion of the winter flu programme'...

NHS England unveils GP contract plans for second phase of COVID-19 response

NHS England unveils GP contract plans for second phase of COVID-19 response

GPs have been told to re-start health checks and other suspended services as NHS...

More than 80% of patients report 'good' overall experience of general practice

More than 80% of patients report 'good' overall experience of general practice

Public satisfaction with GP services remains high, with 82% of patients reporting...

GPs condemn 'deafening silence' from chancellor on COVID support funding

GPs condemn 'deafening silence' from chancellor on COVID support funding

GP leaders have condemned a 'deafening silence' on COVID-19 relief funding for general...